A travel day! At 7:30 am we boarded the train from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken, then changed trains to travel up to Lucerne; there, we arranged for our large luggage to be transported to Lausanne, using a terrific rail baggage program offered by the Swiss Rail system. With our carry-on bags, we are bound for Lugano where we spend two days near the Italian border.
My husband and I used the brief layover in Lucerne to explore a couple of alleys. It’s a cute city; lots of tall buildings, but a sweet old district to which we walked from the station and in which a quaint old church was just releasing parishioners to the colorful streets. Some of the buildings are elaborately painted, some with grotesque and fascinating scenes. Because it is Sunday, most of the shops are closed – a significant difference for us, and something that we noted even in Paris. I wonder whether this is common throughout Europe?
We rejoined my parents and caught a boat for the Wilhelm Tell Tour – the first leg across Lake Lucern. My mom had upgraded us to first class, so we had a dining table with lunch service. This was a treat!
Lake Lucerne is incredibly beautiful. The water is a stunning shade of blue. Unfortunately, it began to rain about 20 minutes into our voyage; we were, however, able to see enough of the sights to find this a scenic journey. We passed several villages, large and small. It seemed that each was marked with a church spire, perhaps the lake equivalent to a lighthouse. In several of the towns, lakefront dwellers leaned out of windows and waved merrily to us.
We passed a few monuments to Wilhelm Tell, and the most interesting was a waterfront chapel. Perhaps ‘waterfront’ is an understatement; it was smack against the shore.
The boat trip was a leisurely 3.5 hours. At Fluelen, we disembarked and walked a few feet to the rail station, where we caught a train to Bellinzona. This particular rail line took us through the Gotthard Tunnel, on which construction began in 1872. The tunnel spirals through the mountain adjacent to the small town of Wassen, and one can see the distinctive spire of Wassen’s church three times – each time from jarringly different angles. It was a little disorienting, in fact.
At Bellinzona we transferred to another train bound for Lugano. Once we arrived at the station, a short funnicular ride dropped us into the heart of a swank shopping district. We walked the few hundred yards to our hotel – the posh Hotel International au Lac – located next to a Louis Vuitton store (the 13,000 CHF bags were pretty, but come on now!) and across the street from a lake.
People here speak Italian, and there are a large number whose English is rather sparse. We had Italian food for dinner, of course, having chanced upon a lakefront restaurant. After dinner we strolled, my dad and my husband enthusiastically indulged in gelato, and we were caught in a light downpour as we walked through the city’s pretty public gardens. Late at night, there was impressive thunder and lightning.